It’s now May, and the A’s are not seeing very much offensive production from their designated-hitter, Eric Chavez. At 15-14, the A’s are atop the AL West, a division that figures to be very competitive this year. Despite their decent start, the A’s are under criticism throughout Oakland about their unwillingness to part ways with slugger, Eric Chavez. Upon reading a post from the A’s Drumbeat, I thought I would give my own take on the A’s situation at DH.
Chavez, a player mostly known for his six gold gloves and frequent trips to the DL, is in the last year of a six year deal he signed back in 2004. Chavez also happens to be a personal favorite of A’s GM, Billy Beane. Beane, who has frequently stressed the importance of not letting personal feelings/friendships getting in the way of business, has been ridiculed this year due to his close relationship with Chavez. During the years 2000-2006, Chavez won six-consecutive gold gloves and averaged 28 homers and 94 RBIs per season.
However, after playing in only 121 games from the years 2007-2009, Chavez’s body has been bruised and battered to the point where even the most optimistic A’s fan can’t expect to see too much from Chavez. This year, Chavez is hitting just .200/.275/.305 with 0 homeruns and 6 RBIs. While he’s stayed healthy so far this season (24 starts), Chavez, who looks considerably smaller this season, has not been a productive player for the A’s.
His early struggles have prompted even some of the most hard-core Chavez fans to turn against him and call for his release. While he certainly cannot afford to continue his poor performance at the plate, fans have to understand that he’s attempting to comeback after multiple surgeries. That’s not to say that fans should have to endure Chavez’s struggles while they await for him to breakout of his slump, but they need to understand that Chavez is trying his best.
Throughout his career, Chavez has been a relatively slow starter. Is he going to break out sometime this month? Who knows? He could. But it is difficult to be too overly optimistic about Chavez these days. But for the sake of a fair argument, let’s take a look back at some of Chavez’s April stats (dating back to 2001). In 2001, Chavez hit .247/.317/.462 with 4 HR and 14 RBIs. Fast-forward to 2004, where Chavez started the season with a .221/.350/.419 line with 5 HRs and 12 RBIs. In 2005, Chavez started out the year by going .194/.276/.312 with 2 HR and 9 RBIs. While most of those numbers are not as bad as this season’s totals, Chavez does have a history of turning things around offensively in the months of May & June.
Basically, my main argument is that the A’s should not give up on Chavez just yet. He’s coming back from multiple surgeries, and has yet to find his timing. He hasn’t played a full season since 2006, so obviously there will be some rust. I do, however, agree that if Chavez does not start turning things around by late May/early June (in terms of average, etc.), then Beane may have to step up and have a sit down conversation with Chavez.
At this point, however, the A’s do not have many options. They could offer Chavez a reduced role, but that wouldn’t be fair since he’s played in only 24 games this season. They could call up Jack Cust, but who really wants to see the strikeout king back with Oakland? And Chris Carter is not ready yet. Remember, the A’s want Carter and Michael Taylor to stay up in the majors for good once they do get called up. Carter as of yesterday is hitting just .253 in the minors. He does have 6 homers, but I think the A’s would like to give Carter and Taylor a little more seasoning in the minors before they call them up for good.
A’s fans, don’t lose faith in Chavez just yet.